Dare I Say It? Dogs Off-Leash?

I try to stay away from controversy.  Anyone who knows me knows I have my correct opinions and like to argue, but here in Wing’s World, I try to keep it sweetness & light.

But it’s summer. Tourists are flocking to my island. And since the chunk of federally-owned land adjacent to my house has been declared part of a National Monument, they seem to be flocking in, well…rather larger flocks.

With their dogs. Who may or may not be leashed.

See, here’s the thing. I hate leashing my dog, Juni. Off-season, when no one’s around, I used to set her free to romp with her buddies along the wind-swept shore.

Juni romping with her buddy Jess

Juni romping with her buddy Jess

"Oops, romped myself right off that trail! Meant to do that..."

“Oops, romped myself right off that trail! Meant to do that…”

Then I became a volunteer BLM Monitor. That’s Bureau of Land Management, a sub-agency of the Department of the Interior. As a Monitor, I get to do what I do every day anyway, only carrying a clipboard and noting things like birds, plants in bloom, numbers of people, and dogs on or off leash. Including me, and mine. And, oh yeah, if I see someone with an off-leash dog, I’m supposed to ask them to leash up.

Out of sheer embarrassment at the hypocrisy of the situation, I began leashing Juni, even when there was no one around. It did feel better not to have her crushing all the pretty flowers in the spring.

"Look OUT! Here comes another DOG!"

“Look OUT! Here comes another DOG!”

It's called Common Camas. But it's really not all that common.

It’s called Common Camas. But it’s really not all that common.

Later, at a BLM monitors picnic, I learned about the sparrows who nested near the trails, and got reminded about some of the endangered plants that could easily get trampled.

The extremely rare Spotted Coralroot Orchid

The extremely rare Spotted Coralroot Orchid

So okay. I want to be a good role model. I got religion on leashing my dog…in this space, at least. But I’m still torn. Dogs have SO MUCH FUN off-leash! And when I meet friends with free-romping pooches who just shake me off when I give ’em my BLM spiel, I have a hard time feeling too upset with them.

So…here goes the controversy. Does LEASH YOUR DOG really mean what it says, or does it mean “We really wish you would keep your dog under control, and if you can do this without a leash, that’s cool”? What’s been your dog off-leash experience? Any horror stories you need to tell?

I got my clipboard handy. Fire away.

"OK...can you let me off the leash NOW?"

“OK…tourists are gone. Can you let me off the leash NOW?”

13 thoughts on “Dare I Say It? Dogs Off-Leash?

  1. It means what it says. Leash your dog. And I am a dog owner and I love dogs. I live in New York City and I am appalled at the number of people who let there dogs run wild in Central Park. It’s not safe – for the dogs. Bikers going forty miles hour, joggers fussing with their ipods, roller bladers flying down the hills, not to speak of the occasional vehicle. My brother, Jim, let his dog off the leash in the woods behind his house. He wandered off and was never found. We think he might have been eaten by a coyote. Keep your dog safe. Put a leash on him.

  2. This is one I often had difficulty with, too. While I am somewhat rule-bound and didn’t others to feel uncomfortable when our dogs were off-leash, they were so high energy and always wanted to run as much as they could. Who was I to deprive them of such joyful opportunities, particularly when we always called them back and either tied them up or held their collars when other people came around (unless the other people were cool with them being free)?

    When we took them for walks at our nearby Grass Lake, which has a sign requiring dogs to be on 6-foot leashes, we saw another dog on a leash just once (so much for the sign…). Even so, that dog bit Dewey on the nose (he was on a leash because he was a biter). That was the only time we ever had any trouble with dogs there and that guy (who was very apologetic) was actually abiding by the rule. As for trampling the vegetation, our dogs stuck to the trail—it was the cross-country runners who needed to get by us who took little detours into the grass or around trees even when we stood aside. Often it was also one of the dogs who alerted us to wildlife (deer, bunnies, birds, snakes, lizards, etc) we might have obliviously overlooked with our own meager senses, but they did this with their stillness and silence when discovering/observing them rather than by noisily bounding after them through the woods.

    I understand that some people have a fear of dogs or just don’t want to be bothered by them off-leash, but I tend to feel that way about a fair number of humans, too, and nobody has proposed a leash law (or muzzles) for them… J Seriously, I guess I was most bothered by this issue when Worf was over 15 years old, moved slower than a snail (literally), couldn’t walk in a straight line, and would fall over with the slightest breeze. Because of his neck injury and his balance problems, especially when he was re-learning to walk, we couldn’t leash him. But there were still some people who would cross the street when they saw this old, infirm dog coming or would ask us to tie him up. At such times, we would just have him sit, pet him, and then help him up to his feet again when those folks were far enough away that they could be assured he would never catch up.

    BTW, we let Juni off-leash at Iceberg Point, too. J

    • “I understand that some people have a fear of dogs or just don’t want to be bothered by them off-leash, but I tend to feel that way about a fair number of humans, too, and nobody has proposed a leash law (or muzzles) for them…”

      HAHAHAHA! This made me laugh, so true! so true!

    • Ha, love the idea of muzzles for certain people. But yeah…now that I have –ahem– such STANDING in my community, it’s leashes for Juni from here on in. 🙂

  3. I’d say leash the dog. We have always had a dog and we have them leashed when outside. We use to let our yellow lab run in the woods at my MIL house and he came back with a dislocated knee. After spending a lot of money to fix his knee, he never was the same. Plus when I was a child I lived by a highway and I saw many of my pets hit by a car. I know there are places where a dog can run without getting hit but I’m too paranoid something will happen to it or they will run away.

  4. Hi Gretchen, great post 🙂 I will declare myself as a dog lover up front 😛
    I think humans – with their big clod-hopping clumsy feet, bikes, skateboards, penchant for dropping litter etc – do much more harm to the environment than dogs have ever done.
    I love letting mine run free whenever we can (and I always carry poop bags lols). However I do agree that dogs should be leashed sometimes for their own safety; and I always leash mine in built up areas and around small children, not all are raised to be sensible around dogs!
    I don’t always agree with the “put your dog on a leash” signs – but if that is the rule, then I follow it … or find somewhere else to enjoy myself!

  5. Is that a malamute?! Which one is Juni?

    I grew up in the country. Our dogs knew the boundaries of our land, so they were allowed to go as they pleased. Except for our indoor dogs, ha! They had to be chaperoned.

    In town or interacting with others at a park, I can understand the importance of the leash laws. I don’t have dogs now, but if I did, I think depending on their personality, self-discipline, training, etc, it would determine how I felt about putting them on a leash. But law is law, and I would follow it, I just might not be happy about it. ha!

  6. I get up early and take my dogs to the park to run free when I know there is nobody around. If someone comes, I leash them up. But they are little dogs with a Big Dog complex and they’ve been attacked by big dogs who are off leash, so I have to say I’m in favor of the leash law (does that make me a hippocrate?). Oh well, at least I’m not a member of BLM 🙂 Great post, Gretchen.

  7. I definitely feel both sides of this issue, or should I say all sides: the humans’, the big dogs’, and the smaller dogs’. That’s why it’s such a fuzzy issue for me…and not just because of my fuzzy dog. 🙂

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